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- Workers in UK and Poland have most generous statutory employee holiday entitlements
- Employees in the USA, Canada, Philippines, China and Thailand have the least generous
- Colombia has greatest number of public holidays; Mexico the least
- UK employees have access to a highest amount of potential holiday (36 days per year) but in reality fare worse than other European employees
Workers in Western European countries, on average, have access to the greatest amount of statutory paid holiday in the world, according to research by Mercer. In contrast, employees in Asia Pacific have the lowest levels of statutory paid holiday. Workers in the UK have, on the face of it, one of the most generous statutory holiday entitlements (28 days) while workers in the United States of America have the least with no statutory holiday entitlement.
The data comes from Mercer’s Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines which provides an overview of employee regulation and employment practices across 62 different countries. The report is used by multi-nationals to define their employee benefit policies across the countries in which they operate. Statutory holiday entitlement is the amount of time off work that an employer must provide to their employees by law.
According to Mercer, holiday entitlement is often more complex since actual holiday provisions often depends on company contracts and the number and treatment of public holidays. In the UK, for example, employees are entitled to 28 days holiday. With the UK also holding 8 public holidays each year, this suggests that employees in the UK could be on holiday for 36 days, or 10%, of each year. This would be one of the highest entitlements of all 62 countries. The reality is that companies are allowed to include the 8 public holidays as part of the 28 day entitlement so UK employees actually have fewer days’ holidays than their peers in the rest of Europe where, in general, the practice is for European employees to take public holidays in addition to their statutory entitlement. Employees in the Asia-Pac region have comparatively low levels of statutory entitlement but public holidays are taken in addition to this rather than as part of it. However, the levels of holiday entitlement in Asia-Pac are still below those of Western Europe.
According to Wolfgang Seidl, Head of Mercer’s Healthcare Consulting business, “Despite continued economic turmoil, interest in the issue work/life balance continues to grow. From the employee’s and company’s perspective, health creates wealth. Companies recognise that a healthy, happy workforce is a productive one and this feeds directly into the bottom line. How companies interpret holiday regulations provision is a major factor. With pay rises muted and often below the rate of inflation, companies are searching for other ways to motivate their staff. Flexible working and a good employee work/life balance helps improve employee engagement when the usual financial tools are unavailable.”
Employees with the potential for most holiday time is Austria with 25 days statutory holiday entitlement and 13 days public holidays and Malta with 24 days statutory holiday entitlement and 14 days public holiday. In both countries employees have the potential for 38 days holiday a year. The Philippines and Canada have the lowest possible entitlements with 20 and 19 days, respectively. Employees in Columbia have the greatest number of public holidays (18 days) while those in Mexico (7) have the least.
UK employees receive the most generous statutory holiday entitlements in Western Europe (28 days) followed closely by Greece, Austria, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark (all 25 days). Employees are slightly worse off in Malta (24), Spain and Portugal (both 22) and Norway (21). In Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands employees are entitled to 20 days statutory holidays. Cyprus offers the highest number of public holidays (15) followed by Malta and Spain (both 14) and Austria and Portugal (both 13). The UK and the Netherlands have the lowest number of public holidays in Europe (8).
Central and Eastern Europe
Poland (26 days) offers employees the most generous holiday entitlements in Eastern Europe, followed by Hungary (23). Latvia, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Romania all offer 20 days statutory holiday. The Ukraine offers 18 days and Turkey has the region’s lowest entitlements at 17 days. Across the region there are more public holidays on offer compared to Western European countries. Slovakia offers the highest number of public holidays (15) with Serbia offering the least (8).
Middle East and Africa
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 22 days make provision for the greatest amount of statutory holidays in the region, followed by Morocco (18), Lebanon (15) and South Africa (15). The Lebanon offers the highest number of public holidays (16) followed by Morocco (14), South Africa (12) and the UAE (9).
North and Latin America
The two North American states, Canada and the United States are amongst the least generous nations when it comes to statutory holidays. US Federal law does not mandate pay for time not worked and holiday policies vary widely. Many organisations in the US provide three weeks of vacation after five to ten years of service and unionised employees generally have vacation time specified under collective agreements. In Canada, mandatory vacation entitlements vary between provinces and companies typically supplement statutory requirements and some organisations provide up to six weeks’ vacation after 20 or 25 years of service. The story is markedly different in Latin America. Employees in Venezuela receive 24 days holiday followed by Brazil and Peru (both 22), Argentina (20) and Mexico (16) with Colombia and Chile both offering employees the region’s least generous entitlement of 15 days. However, employees in Colombia also receive the regions most generous public holiday allowance of 18 days a year, followed by Chile (14), Argentina (12), Peru (12) and Venezuela (12). Canada and Ecuador have amongst the continent’s least generous public holiday allowance (9), with Mexico coming at the bottom with 7 days.
Employees in Asia fare poorly when their statutory holiday entitlements are compared with the rest of the world. Japan, Australia and New Zealand offer employees the region’s highest levels of statutory holiday entitlement (20 days) equal to many countries in Western Europe. These are followed by South Korea (19), Malaysia (16) and Taiwan (15). Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Pakistan all provide 14 days followed by India and Indonesia (both 12) and China (10). Thailand (6) and the Philippines (5) offer the region’s lowest holiday entitlement.
India, Thailand and Malaysia all make provision for the most public holidays in the region with 16 days followed by Japan, South Korea and the Philippines all with 15 days. Indonesia provides 14, Taiwan 13 and Hong Kong 12. Singapore, Pakistan, China and New Zealand all provide 11 with employees in Australia and Vietnam entitled to 9.
In addition to annual leave and public holidays, employers in some nations are required by law to give special leave for getting married, or for other circumstances such as the death of a spouse or close relative, for example. Even when there is no requirement, many larger employers provide additional leave for special circumstances.
“A break from the daily routine is essential in maintaining employee wellbeing,” said Mr. Seidl. “Companies that keep holiday provision as low as possible in order to reduce lost income from absent workers may find that their employees are less robust, in poorer health and crucially, less productive. It’s key to create a culture of health in the workplace and employees will take the message home with them and look after their health outside work as well”.
Holiday entitlements around the world
Source: Mercer’s 2011 Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines. The figures are based on statutory entitlements for an employee working five days a week, with 10 years’ service. Figures exclude Saturdays and Sundays, unless otherwise stated. Public holidays do not include Saturdays and Sundays.
|Country||Region||Statutory minimum holidays (working days)||Ranking by statutory minimum||Public holidays (days)||Ranking by public holidays||Total (working days)|
|United Kingdom||Western Europe||281||1||8||11||362|
|Poland||Central and Eastern Europe||263||2||11||8||37|
|Hungary||Central and Eastern Europe||23 (age 31/32)9||5||10||9||33|
|United Arab Emirates||
Middle East and Africa
|Croatia||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||13||5||33|
|Czech Republic||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||12||7||32|
|Latvia||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||12||7||32|
|Lithuania||Central and Eastern Europe||2021||8||13||5||33|
|New Zealand||Asia Pacific||2023||8||11||8||31|
|Romania||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||8||10||29|
|Russia||Central Eastern Europe||2024||8||12||7||32|
|Serbia||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||8||11||28|
|Slovakia||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||15||3||35|
|Slovenia||Central and Eastern Europe||20||8||13||5||33|
|South Korea||Asia Pacific||1926||9||15||3||34|
|Morocco||Middle East and Africa||1827||10||14||4||32|
|Ukraine||Central and Eastern Europe||1828||10||9||10||27|
|Turkey||Central and Eastern Europe||1729||11||13.5||6||30.5|
|Lebabnon||Middle East and Africa||15||13||16||2||31|
Middles East and Africa
|Hong Kong||Asia Pacific||1435||14||1236||7||26|
|United States||North America||No mandatory requirement, see explanations below. Typical practice would be 15 days43||19||10||9||25 (including typical vacation time)|
1&2United Kingdom: a worker is entitled to 28 days of annual leave each year. Public holidays (of which there are eight days in the UK) may count towards the employee’s annual leave entitlement. The table above shows the statutory minimum, including all public holidays in the annual leave entitlement.
3Poland: the length of holiday in a calendar year depends on the seniority of the employee – 20 working days less than 10 years’ service, 26 working days above 10 years’ service.
4Bolivia: legal definition is 30 days of annual vacation for employees with 10+ years of seniority; vacation days do not include Sundays.
5&6Finland: legal definition is 30 days including Saturdays. This means that employees are entitled to five weeks of vacation per year. Midsummer’s Eve and Christmas Eve are not official public holidays by legislation and not included in the list above. However, most employment contracts provide these two days as full holiday.
7France: the law provides for five weeks of paid vacation (that is, 30 calendar days + Sundays)
8Greece: employees who have completed 10 years of service with the same employer, or 12 years with several employers, are entitled to 25 working days of paid leave per year.
9Hungary: mandatory vacation is calculated according to the age of the employee (minimum 20 max. 30 after age 45). An employee aged 31 to 32 would be entitled to 23 days
10Brazil: legal definition is 30 calendar days
11Peru: legal definition is 30 calendar days
12Portugal: the number of 22 workdays is increased, by between one and three days, if the employee did not miss without justification any working day in the previous year.
13Spain: paid vacation period is not lower than 30 calendar days or 22 working days.
14United Arab Emirates: legal definition is 30 calendar days
15Norway: employees are entitled to 25 working days of vacation per year. Working days are defined as all days except Sundays.
16Argentina: Vacation entitlement is calculated according to job seniority. From the 10th to the 19th year, employees can take a minimum of 28 consecutive days (that is, 20 business days).
17Australia: there are 8 national public holidays falling on weekdays, plus at least two additional public holidays proclaimed in each state/territory each year, which must also be observed. Some are applicable to certain industries, such as banking, or only apply to certain regions.
18Germany: for a five-day week, the mandatory vacation entitlement is 20 working days. Companies typically supplement: typically 30 working days based on a five-workday week.
19Germany: public holidays differ from each state (Bundesland). The overall amount of public holidays ranges from nine to 13 days in the course of a calendar year.
20Japan: annual vacation is variable according to length of service – 20 days for an employee with 10 years of service. Employees can take annual vacation by the hour up to five days per year.
21Lithuania: legal definition is minimum annual leave of 28 calendar days.
22Netherlands: the statutory rules have a minimum character. It is customary for employers to grant more paid vacation (between 25 and 30 days).
23New Zealand: every employee is entitled to four weeks’ paid vacation after 12 months’ service.
24Russia: legal definition is annual leave of 28 calendar days.
25Switzerland: public holidays vary across cantons and municipalities. 1 August is a federal holiday; in addition, each Swiss canton is authorised to institute a maximum of eight public holidays per year. In addition, there might be several work free days according to the canton/municipality.
26South Korea: annual vacation is variable according to length of service – 19 days for an employee with 10 years of service
27Morocco: three complete weeks per year; increased by 1.5 days of work per complete period of five years of service (up to a maximum of 30 days of work)
28Ukraine: legal definition is vacation of 24 calendar days.
29Turkey: legal definition is 20 days, corresponding to 17 working days
30Malaysia: 16 days for every 12 months of continuous service with the same employer for a period of five years or more
31Mexico: In addition, the “Change of President” day is a public holiday that takes place every six years on 1 December, next to occur in 2012.
32Ecuador: legal definition is 15 uninterrupted days, including non-working days; plus one additional day for each succeeding year after having worked more than five years in the same company or for the same employer. Calculation in the table is based on 20 calendar days.
33South Africa: legal definition is 21 consecutive days’ paid leave per year. This is the equivalent of three weeks’ time off. Weekends during the vacation period are counted as leave days.
34Taiwan: annual vacation is variable according to length of service – employees with more than five but less than 10 years of service are entitled to 14 days of leave, employees with over 10 years of service are entitled to one additional day per year of service up to a maximum of 30 days.
35Hong Kong: annual vacation is variable according to length of service – 14 days for an employee with 10 years of service. Typically, companies top up the mandatory annual leave to a maximum of 20 days for over 10 years of service.
36Hong Kong: most employers supplement statutory requirements by granting a further five holidays.
37Singapore: annual vacation is variable according to length of service – 14 days for an employee with 10 years of service
38India: every worker who has worked for 240 days or more during a calendar year is entitled to leave at the following rate: one day for every 20 days of work performed during the previous calendar year.
39India: the use of public holidays is not appropriate in the Indian context when dealing with private establishments. Private establishments must observe national holidays (26 January, 15 August and 2 October) and holidays on major festivals. The average number of such festivals may vary from five to seven. Local variations, depending on the state, are prevalent.
40Canada: mandatory vacation entitlements vary between provinces. Figures in the table represent the mandatory entitlement for Ontario: two weeks of paid time off. Companies typically supplement statutory requirements, vacation schedules vary by company and may provide up to six weeks’ vacation after 20 or 25 years of service.
41Canada: Ontario’s Civic Monday (first Monday in August) is not provided by statute but is generally offered. Not included in the public holidays above as it is not mandatory.
42China: the employee is entitled to five days’ paid vacation if the accumulated service year is more than one year and less than 10 years; 10 days’ paid vacation if the accumulated service year is more than 10 years and less than 20 years.
43United States: Federal law does not mandate pay for time not worked. Although vacation policies vary widely, many organisations provide three weeks of vacation after five to ten years of service. Unionised employees generally have vacation time specified under collective agreements.
Mercer is a global leader in human resource consulting and related services. The firm works with clients to solve their most complex human capital issues by designing and helping manage health, retirement and other benefits. Mercer’s 20,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), a global team of professional services companies offering clients advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and human capital. With 52,000 employees worldwide and annual revenue exceeding $10 billion, Marsh & McLennan Companies is also the parent company of Marsh, a global leader in insurance broking and risk management; Guy Carpenter, a global leader in providing risk and reinsurance intermediary services; and Oliver Wyman, a global leader in management consulting. Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerInsights